Monday, July 31, 2006

The Mother of All Quagmires

The situations in Lebanon and Iraq continue to deteriorate. The two wars have become mutually destabilizing, and threaten to expand into a full-blown regional armed conflict, and the actions of the United States seem designed to guarantee that they do.

Iraqi leaders are condemning Israels attack on Qana, Lebanon that reportedly killed at least 56 civilians. Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shia, has accused Israel of carrying out "massacres." President Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, called the Qana attack a "crime" and also called for an immediate halt to the fighting. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, also a Sunni Kurd, said the events in Lebanon will "undoubtedly" impact Iraq.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading cleric, called for an immediate ceasefire as well and said, "Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a ceasefire." One of those nations, of course, is the one that's currently occupying al-Sistani's country.

Though Israel promised to halt air strikes for 48 hours, it resumed bombing in southern Lebanon on Monday. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told his parliament that "It's forbidden to agree to an immediate cease-fire" and "Israel will expand and strengthen its activities against the Hezbollah."

Condoleeza Rice, having failed to accomplish anything of substance during her piano concert tour of the Middle East is headed for home, which is just as well. If we'd wanted to a musician to broker a peace, we should have sent Bono.

But guess who's not coming home. 3,700 troops of the 172nd Stryker Brigade have been extended in the Iraq theater of war for another 120 days. On Friday, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed that U.S. troop levels increased last week from 127,000 to 132,000. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi has "agreed" to a joint US-Iraq military operation involving 75 thousand troops to regain control of Baghdad. Apparently, it's a concern in some circles that 75 thousand troops won't be enough to get the job done.

Uncle Bunker

The promise of a stable, democratized Middle East the neoconservatives made when they seduced America into supporting an invasion of Iraq has turned into the mother of all quagmires. It's tempting to dismiss the actions of the Bush administration as the fumbling of incompetent ideologues, but there's reason to suspect that things in the Middle East are going exactly as planned. This from Stephen Lendman of the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center:
On July 26, Aljazeerah reported a story headlined - "Israeli invasion of Lebanon planned by neocons in June (2006)." It was done at a June 17 and 18 meeting at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference in Beaver Creek, Colorado at which former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud Knesset member Natan Sharansky met with US Vice President Dick Cheney. The purpose was to discuss the planned and impending Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invasions of Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. Cheney was thoroughly briefed and approved the coming assaults--before Hamas' capture of an IDF soldier on June 25 or Hezbollah's capturing of two others in an exchange first reported as occurring in Israel and now believed to have happened inside Lebanon after IDF forces illegally entered the country.

Following the Colorado meeting, Netanyahu returned to Israel for a special "Ex-Prime Ministers" meeting in which he conveyed the message of US support to carry out the "Clean Break" policy officially ending all past peace accords including Oslo. At the meeting in Israel in addition to Binyamin Netanyahu were current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres.

Okay. This comes to us from a liberal U.S. publication quoting information put out by a Muslim news service. But given what we've seen of the Bush administration so far, how far-fetched does the notion of Uncle Dick giving a thumbs-up for the Israelis to expand the scope of hostilities in the Middle East really seem?

Lendman also describes how the "Clean Break" policy intends to expand the scope of Middle Eastern armed conflict to Syria and Iran, something that jibes with the overtones of the Bush administration's rhetoric over the past weeks.

This Just In

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just announced that "there will be no ceasefire." There's no way of knowing whether Dick Cheney blessed this statement, but Cheney and Olmert sure have a lot in common. Both of these political leaders had "better things to do" in their youths than fight in their countries' wars, but they're enthusiastic about committing their countries' youths to a never-ending war now.

And frighteningly, there seems to be no way to stop them from doing it.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Karl Rove Playbook Quiz

I normally don't care to make paste and posts, but I’m making an exception here. Can you guess the book the following quotes came from, and who the author was?
--To whom should propaganda be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the less educated masses? It must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses.

-- It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance.

-- All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.

-- The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out.

-- The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.

-- But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.

Click here for the answer.

Bonus Question

Some of you may find this image amusing. For 5 million Pen and Sword quiz points, which of these guys actually wrote a book and which of them never actually read one? (Hint: look at which one of those guys is breathing through his mouth.)

Support the troops.

With us or against us.

Fighting them over there…


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

R.I.P. Moral Clarity

It's fruitless to make moral judgments about the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, or about any of the wars going on the world today. There are no "good guys" or "bad guys" any more. There are no good wars, just bad situations. There is no such thing as "winning" a war; armed conflict is a lose-lose proposition.

A lot of high-powered defenders of Israel gobbled up bandwidth on the political talk shows today condemning Hezbollah for hiding itself among Lebanon's civilian population. Yeah, that's despicable, but guess what. That's the sort of thing guerilla style militias do. It's been that way since Clausewitz was a corporal and for a heck of a long time before that. If you're going to go after guerilla groups like these, you're going to have to carve your way through their human shield.

Maybe that's necessary in some situations. Maybe it's necessary for the Israelis to be doing that now. But necessary or no, it's not a "good" thing, and in the long run, it won't make Israel any more secure and it certainly won't stabilize the Middle East. You can safely bet your home equity that for every Hezbollah fighter the Israelis eliminate, they're creating at least two more, and every day that the conflict goes on adds a decade or so to the state of Muslim-western animosities.

In an earlier age, having the strongest nation in the world as an ally was an asset. Today, in Israel's case, it's a pair of cement shoes. Whatever moral high ground the Jewish state may claim in its present conflict is refuted by its connection to the United States. The nation that rose from a great depression to save the world from dictatorship, Fascism, and Stalinist totalitarianism is now viewed by much of the world that it saved as a mirror image of the evils it defeated. The hapless "negotiating into a fan" diplomacy Condoleezza Rice is presently conducting lends credence to the suspicion that the Bush administration is not only bound and determined to light off World War III (or IV or V or VI, however you're counting these things), but to ensure that it never burns out.

I like to think that the country I spent my adult life "defending" is not the same thing as its present government that has transformed America from a "the land of the free" into the home of liars, hypocrites and incompetent bullies. But living in a red state, I'm too often reminded that our government is, to a large extent, a reflection of the people who put it in office.

I ran into a Virginia hillbilly at a local watering hole yesterday whom I knew from happy hours of yesteryear and hadn't seen in a while. The first words out of his mouth were, "How bout them Jew boys mopping up on all them rag heads for us, huh? I'm glad as hell that colored gal ain't trying to stop them."

The Virginian then proceeded to throw a coin into the jukebox and play Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American."

When he came back to the bar, I asked him what he thought about a country western singer making money on war and human misery.

"What do you mean?" he said.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Friday, July 28, 2006

War is Peace, Instability is Progress, Failure is Success

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

-- Mark Twain

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

-- Benjamin Franklin

Dubya Talk

Call it cognitive dissonance, semantic illness or loony tune logic; the Bush administration is infected with a form of insanity for which there seems to be no viable cure.

For a long time, I dismissed much of the administration's self contradictory rhetoric as garden-variety political blather. But I started getting worried back in summer of 2005 when young Mister Bush said of the terrorists, "I think they're losing. That's why they're still fighting."

By this line of reasoning, the second the terrorists stop fighting they'll have "won." I was willing to dismiss Bush's statement as just another one of those dopey things that belly flop off the guy's tongue when his handlers let him off his leash until I caught this snippet a week or so later from an interview between Bill O'Reilly and retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney:
O'Reilley: Insurgent attacks on a daily basis have almost doubled from 2004 to 2005. What does that say?

McInerney: It says that the terrorists, the insurgents, are fighting even harder because they know they are losing.

That's when it hit me. This "still fighting because they're losing" business wasn't just some misstatement that belly-flopped its way off the end of Mister Bush's tongue. It was a carefully crafted talking point invented at a conservative think tank and blessed by Karl Rove for distribution to the administration's anointed echo chamberlains.

And I realized that the core essence of the neoconservative cabal is out-and-out March Hare madness.

Mad Dogs, Englishmen and Neocons

The "fighting because they're losing" mantra is still a centerpiece of this administration's mala-propaganda. As conservative commentator George Will noted on July 18th, Condoleezza Rice's arguments against calling for an immediate cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon make, "instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress."

In other words, Rice asserts that the longer the fighting goes on, the better the prospects are for a permanent peace. That's more than a bit like saying the longer you live beyond your means by charging your lifestyle to a credit card, the sooner you'll get out of debt.

At a Friday White House press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mister Bush said he hoped to turn the Israel-Hezbollah crisis into "moment of opportunity and a chance for broader change in the region."

With a "moment of opportunity" like that, who needs a lack of options? Heck, if you look around at Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, we have more moments of opportunity than we can shake a big stick at. Things have never looked rosier for the New American Century!

Do the so-called leaders of the English-speaking world really swallow their own road apple rhetoric, or are they just putting us on? Do they really think following the same failed policies will produce different results, or they insane enough to think that the wisdom of ages doesn't apply to them? Or have they fallen head over heels for the Machiavellian notion that power is its own objective, and that any ends that preserve power for them and their inner circles justify any means that will preserve that power?

It really doesn't matter what they're thinking or not thinking any more. We need to vote them back to their own private Idahos before they jack our entire planet into the next solar system.

Who do we replace them with? Right now, I don't really care, but I'll tell you this. It will be a cold day in whatever corner in hell that Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of them wind up sharing before I vote for a Republican again.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Malaki's Malarky

I've been browsing reviews of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's speech before Congress on Tuesday, looking for something in his remarks I could sympathize with or support. I haven't found anything like that yet.

From Kate Zernike of the New York Times:
Addressing a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq described his country as the “front line” in the fight against terrorism and vowed to make Iraq an “active player” in the security and stability of the Middle East.

Iraq isn't the "front line" in the fight against terrorism. It's the front line in the Iraqi civil war. Iraq as an "active player" in the security and stability of the Middle East? Iraq is the major factor in the chaos of the Gulf region. For Malaki to stand in front of the U.S. Congress and say his country will be a big dog in the process of stabilizing the Middle East was a Cheney-class piece of delusional chutzpah.

“Iraqis are your allies in the war on terror,” Maliki said. Yeah, and Italians were Hitler's allies in World War II. Look how that worked out for Hitler.

Aping his sponsor George W. Bush, Maliki invoked 9/11 and said that Americans and Iraqis are united in a "common struggle." There's a grain of truth to that. Iraqis and Americans are both struggling to find a way to get Americans out of Iraq.

Ten minutes into his speech, Maliki was interrupted by a protester who chanted, “Iraqis want the troops to leave! Bring them home now!” House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) ordered the Capitol Police to remove the protester. He let Maliki stay and finish his speech. That gives you a clear example of where GOP priorities lie: first amendment rights extend to an Iraqi, but not to an American citizen. I'd guess that the NSA isn't allowed to monitor Maliki's phone calls either.

“Iraq will not forget those who stood with her and continue to stand with her in times of need,” Malaki said.

Baloney. The second Malaki thinks his government is secure, he'll tell us to pack our hats and gear and take a hike.

The most offensive part of Maliki's speech was his admonition for America not to abandon Iraq like it did after the first Iraq War. “Let 1991 never be repeated,” he said, “for history will be most unforgiving.”

Kiss my keyster, Mister Maliki. Everything going on in Iraq now is our fault because the elder Bush didn't thump Hussein out of his palace the first time? How have things worked out since young Mister Bush came back and "finished the job" for you?

Malaki's Mercenaries

Malaki asked for more foreign aid for fledgling Iraqi companies, complaining that much of the financial aid from America and other countries had been diverted to "security companies." "Security companies" is a not-so-subtle euphemism for "mercenaries," who have been hired to do dirty work that Iraqis themselves don't want to do because they don't want to fight other Iraqis.

That reality is, in fact, a major reason that U.S. troops aren't able to "stand down" in Iraq. Iraqi troops don't want to "stand up" and fight for their own country. America's military itself has become a de facto mercenary force that's propping up Malaki's government on the American taxpayers' dime because Malaki can't convince his own people to support the very government they supposedly elected into office.

And this son of a Shiite has the audacity to stand in front of Congress and lay a guilt trip on the American people about not removing Hussein from power after we kicked him out of Kuwait?


Malaki's sense of responsibility is every bit as childish as that of the Bush administration. Everything that goes wrong is somebody else's fault, and somebody else needs to pick up the tab to fix it.

For years, we heard Rovewellian claims of having "turned the corner" in Iraq. Now, creeping into the rhetoric, is the "last chance" gambit. How long will we listen to them play that saw?

The American public needs to tell Messrs Maliki and Bush that we've heard "last chance" for the last time.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wars and Attrition in the Next World Order

The argument has been around for years. That America can now fight wars without suffering high casualty levels makes it too easy for us to engage in unnecessary wars. There's something to that philosophy. If we were absorbing casualties in Iraq at the rate we suffered them in World War II, million person marches on Washington would likely be a familiar occurrence.

However, the idea of increased own force casualties being a good thing contains a number of profoundly flawed assumptions, the main one of which is that suffering attrition is either an effective or efficient way to conduct warfare. Like George S. Patton said, "Nobody ever won a war by dying for his country."

Munitions and Attritions

It's almost unanimously accepted that World War II was a magnificent victory of free peoples over fascism, imperialism, and dictatorial regimes. But that victory came at a cost. By some counts, 62 million people perished in the war, and roughly 60 percent of the casualties were civilians. What's more, 80 percent of the war deaths occurred on the Allied side. That kind of friendly attrition may have been a necessary price to win "the good war", but few will seriously argue that suffering an unfavorable 8 to 2 attrition ratio is a "good" way to conduct armed conflict.

What's more, to discuss the contemporary security environment in the context of World War II is to compare apples and elephants. To start with, the global balance of military power has completely changed. Today, the United States spends as much on armed force as the rest of the world combined. Things were quite a bit different when Hitler unilaterally annexed the Sudetenland and conducted his blitzkrieg invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain has suffered much criticism over the decades for "appeasing" Hitler as Nazi Germany's aggressive tendencies emerged. But in truth, neither the British nor the French were in much of a position to deter or block Hitler militarily.

Britain and France were still recovering from the fiscal and human cost of World War I. Over the objections of Charles de Gaulle and others on the French general staff, the French had decided to forgo the expense of creating a mobile, air power supported force like the one Hitler was developing and opted instead to invest in the Maginot Line, a static, defensive system of steel and cement fortresses that spanned the trench warfare front of World War I. Britain, an island nation and a traditional sea power, did not have the kind of land forces necessary to deploy to the continent and fight a moving, offensive ground war on its own.

America, still mired in the great depression, was in no position to stop either Japanese or German aggression in the early stages. It's eventual decisive role in defeating the Axis Powers required a complete mobilization of industry and a comprehensive draft of able bodied citizens into military service. That took a considerable amount of time. Two and a half years of full time war production and elapsed between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) and the U.S. led D-Day invasion of Europe (June 6, 1944). Victor in Europe (VE Day) didn't occur until May of 1945, and Victory over Japan (VJ Day) came about in August of that year.

Much of the rationale behind today's standing, rapidly deployable, all volunteer force revolves around avoiding three key deficiencies in our World War II experience.

1) Maintain sufficient force to deter not only major conflict, but to economically deter other nations from developing the kinds of standing force required to defeat ours.

2) Maintain a high technology force that can defeat any other conventional force in "major combat" operations rapidly and decisively.

3) Maintain a force that can quickly redeploy from major combat operations, reconstitute, and be prepared to engage in other major conflicts overseas.

Thinking With the Wrong Head

World War II America may have brought itself out of an economic depression by putting itself on a wartime footing, but that's not a solution to today's fiscal conundrums. America has been on a wartime footing ever since, and the military industrial complex is no longer an economic engine. It's a gaping hole in our national purse. Pundits and scholars who argue otherwise do so under the motivation of six figure salaries and generous neoconservative think tank stipends.

So no, high casualty, high attrition wars won't make America stronger, or make us seem stronger in the eyes in the rest of the world.

A long-standing argument of many of our "war intellectuals" says that a willingness to sustain attrition illustrates our "resolve" to the rest of the world.

Pardon me if you've heard this before, but getting in a bar fight over a girl you just met shows "resolve." Waking up in jail the next morning with a black eye and two broken ribs shows how stupid you are.

One would like to think that the mightiest nation in human history would be wise enough to wield its power without needing barroom attrition to keep it from throwing its fists foolishly.

One would like to think that, anyway.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Mighty Fall Further

Jammed off the radar by bad news from Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and America's other warfare related foreign policy fumbles is another issue that bodes ill for the ability of "the mightiest nation in history" to favorably influence international relationships. As Tom Wright of the New York Times reports, key global trade talks have gone down the flusher.
After five years of negotiations to reduce barriers to international trade, global trade talks broke down today when the United States and the European Union failed to agree to reduce farm subsidies and protective tariffs.

Negotiators from the United States, the European Union, Japan, Brazil, India and Australia were deadlocked after meeting for 14 hours at the World Trade Organization’s headquarters here on Sunday, prompting the director general of the organization, Pascal Lamy, to suspend further discussions.

The general idea behind creating a global economy was to create an economic model in which armed conflict would ebb because it would disrupt trade that contributed to the prosperity of all parties involved. As you might expect, the main point of contention was over America's tariff protection and subsidizing of its farmers, which gives you the big picture of where the Bush administration's warfare-centric neoconservative policies have led us. We can't even hold talks on global trade without turning them in to a worldwide food fight.

Digging Our Way to China

America's standing as an honest broker and an agent of "good" has never been lower. Young Mister Bush has squandered the moral heroism banked by predecessors like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and his father, George H.W. Bush. The country of big shoulders that the rest of the world could lean on has become the bully nation. Domestically, the government "of the people, by the people, for the people" has become the official sponsor of special interests, big business, big energy and the military industrial complex.

Commentator Bob Higgins has written a wonderful two-part column titled "Class Warfare at Big Flo's Diner." Bob chronicles the plight of Jane, a middle aged divorcee who works for less than minimum wage as a waitress in a large chain diner type restaurant. Jane works overtime for tips only because her diner chain's bean counting corporate gurus won't allow overtime pay.

Can someone explain to me how a nation that can spend more than a half trillion dollars annually on counterproductive foreign wars and the machinery that supports them let this sort of thing go on within its own borders?

Part of the answer may lie in the reality that on a subsistence of $2.36 per hour plus tips, Jane can't afford to pay the likes of Bob Dole to lobby Congress on her behalf.

Guess who else can't afford Bob Dole class lobbyists. Start with the more than 600 thousand Lebanese refugees created by the ongoing Israel-Hezbollah crisis. And between the Israelis and the Lebanese refugees, guess who can afford lobbyists like Bob Dole.

And guess further who's really driving the policy by which Condi Rice stares at her shiny Italian boots while refusing to push for an immediate ceasefire that might avoid making even more Lebanese refugees, a significant portion of whom are lining up right now in front of Hezbollah recruiting offices.

And we wonder why "home grown" terrorists are popping up lately.

There is no front on which the Bush administration has not squandered the gains of previous American foreign and domestic efforts. How much deeper will they dig us?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Condi's Diplomacy Equation: War + War = Peace

Germany's Deutche Welle reported Sunday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is entering the Middle East arena with "few friends for company," and described the United States as "increasingly estranged from European and Arab allies" over the Israel-Lebanon crisis.

On Friday, Rice said, "I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and starting shuttling around and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do."

It's not clear what she's going to do now. European and Arab nations are increasingly calling for an immediate ceasefire, which the Bush administration is dead set against. Even our British lap dog balks at playing ball with us, criticizing both Israel's tactics and America's intransigence.

Rice won't be "shuttling," per se. In fact, the won't actually be entering the "Middle East arena." She'll be setting up a regal residence in Rome, largely because our Arab "allies" balked at hosting her visit. She's scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Monday. On Wednesday, Condi will entertain Europeans, UN officials and Arabs, all of whom are "dismayed" by the U.S. strategy. There's no word what she has planned for Tuesday. Maybe she'll go shopping for a nice pair of Italian pumps.

She won't be talking to anyone from Syria, Iran or Hezbollah. That's par for the course in Bush diplomacy, which Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) accurately described Sunday on CNN's Late Edition as "juvenile" because we refuse to talk to people we don't like.

War + War = Peace?

Rice will reject pleas for America to demand an immediate ceasefire because she says that will lead to a "false promise," one sure to foment future conflicts. This attitude sums up the false promise of the neoconservative philosophy--that war produces peace, an assertion that flies in the face of the entire history of humanity. War only produces more war. The only thing that produces peace is, um, lack of war. You'd think that having been a professor of political science at Stanford University, Condi might be aware of that tidbit of knowledge. Maybe she forgot about it, what with the busy schedule she's been keeping since she started hitting the gym every day with young Mister Bush.

Early rhetoric exhorted the Israelis to "remove" Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. One has to ask where these "removal" proponents were suggesting Hezbollah be "removed" to. Historically, removals of peoples and groups in the Middle East have only removed the problem to a different location.

The truth be told, "remove" is a politically correct euphemism for "annihilate." And it's as plain as the thousand-yard stare she exhibits whenever she talks in front of a camera that Condi's delaying strategy is designed to give the Israelis time to do just exactly that to Hezbollah.

To annihilate Hezbollah will take a heck of a lot more that a couple weeks of aerial bombing and ground combat by the Israelis. It will take killing every man, woman and child who ever is, or ever was, or might conceivably ever be a member, supporter or sympathizer of Hezbollah. And the more America and its proxies try to achieve that goal, the more members, supporters and sympathizers of Hezbollah it will create. It will also serve as a better recruiting program for al Qaeda and every other anti-western radical Islamic group than they themselves ever could have created on their own.

As Condi gads about Rome not really talking to anybody and shopping for shiny shoes, she'll be setting a course for a global genocide so massive as to make the holocaust seem like a rush hour fender bender.

As political scientists go, I'll take songwriter Randy Newman over Condi Rice every time.

I get Randy Newman's joke about dropping "the big one" on everybody. I get the sick feeling that Condi and her Dutch uncles in the Bush administration take him seriously.


Bravo Zulu to the U.S. sailors and Marines who evacuated (and continue to evacuate) U.S. citizens from Lebanon. Carry the hell on, shipmates!


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

(This article also posted at Kos. If you have the time, please stop over there and recommend.



Saturday, July 22, 2006

Let's Side With Israel and Say We Didn't

The New York Times reports that today that the U.S. is " rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon."

From NYT's David S. Cloud and Helene Cooper:
The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah. [Italics added.]

This paragraph contains a few interesting statements.

If we're supplying munitions to the Israelis in the middle of a shooting war, we don't appear to be aiding them, we are aiding them. And such actions don't threaten to anger Arab governments, they're a sure bet to anger Arab governments.

As to efforts on Iran's part to resupply Hezbollah, the source of that story appears to be Israel's Haaretz newspaper. Propaganda, you think?

Did Cloud and Cooper do any double-checking on this story, or did they just echo what their sources in the administration fed them?

Let's Take Sides and Say We Didn't

I won't make any judgments on whether or not we should be supporting Israel in this war, but you can't pitch in on one side--which we have done--and pretend that you're still neutral.

But that's precisely the kind of Rovewellian poppycock we're trying to pull. Condi Rice will be on her way to the region tomorrow to try to broker some kind of ceasefire. How in the world does she expect to be viewed as an honest broker when her country clearly favors one of the belligerents over the other? Maybe she'll try to tell everybody she didn't know about American sending Israel more bombs. That would be about as credible as anything else she can say.

Just when I think the Bush administration's conduct of foreign policy can't get one bit less cognizant, it proves me wrong. The best way to describe the kind of diplomacy we're conducting right now is "negotiating into a fan," and the blowback will likely smell to high heaven.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Info War Update: "Tonight's the Night"

MSNBC's Tucker Carlson, reporting from Haifa, looking and sounding like a college freshman nine beers into his first frat kegger, is babbling about the "invasion" of Lebanon that's coming "probably tonight."

Nope, I'm not one bit impressed with the carnival sideshow the cable news networks are making of this war.

Bring on Cybil the Soothsayer!

U.S. News Networks Conducting Information Warfare

Wittingly or unwittingly, at least two major U.S. news networks are conducting a major information operation in support of the Israel-Lebanon War.

All morning, MSNBC and CNN have been broadcasting footage of Israeli tanks and troops forming up on Lebanon's southern border. (I haven't been watching Fox, for all I know they're doing the same thing.) On scene reporters and analysts are describing how engineering units are moving up, ostensibly to clear away any mine fields or other obstructions prior to the launch of an assault, raid or full scale invasion.

A number of things could be going on here, none of which bode well for the post conflict analysis of the news networks' ethical behavior.

It may be that the network is broadcasting these images and information without Israel's knowledge or permission. If that's the case, they are providing real time tactical intelligence on Israel's movements and intentions to Hezbollah. But I think it highly unlikely that Israel hasn't given the networks to make footage of its troop movements, or that the networks would know anything about deployment of engineers and other details that the Israeli's haven't told them.

I find it even less likely that the Israelis are dumb enough not to realize that their enemy is seeing and hearing everything broadcast on U.S. network television.

A more probable scenario is that the Israelis are using the networks as part of an overall psychological and/or deception operation. In that case, the networks have in effect made themselves a part of the Israeli Defense Force. And make no mistake, there's a huge difference between reporting on operations that have already taken place and operations that are about to. The former is journalism. The latter is an essential element of modern war fighting.

It could be that the cable news giants are simply trying to report news, and don't realize what they're doing. But I find that a little hard to accept as well. I'm not familiar with CNN's stable of military experts, but it is inconceivable to me that MSNBC's Jack Jacobs, Rick Francona and the rest of them don't understand the implications of what's going on. Is anybody going to the senior producers and network executives and asking, "Hey, what are we doing here?"

I hope so, because at the end of the day, a whole lot of people will look back on this and notice that major U.S. media outlets picked a side in a war that America, in theory, is not a party to.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

None of My Best Friends are Jewish

I caught no small amount of flack over yesterday's article titled The 51st State of Israel, in which I facetiously suggested that the best thing America can do to protect Israel would be to give it a slice of Utah and Nevada and grant it statehood. Some folks took it as a dead serious proposal, which gives you some idea of the health of irony in our present age. It isn't quite dead yet, but its refuges are limited in number.

Anyone who points to Israel as the long pole in the circus tent of young Mister Bush's foreign policy risks accusations of anti-Semitic bigotry. The easy and cheesy rebuttal to such accusations is "some of my best friends are Jewish," but I'm not easy or cheesy enough to pull that ripcord. The truth be told, I don't have a whole lot of friends period, and if any of them are Jewish, they're going out of their way to hide it from me.

I don't have any black friends either. I've had a lot of pleasant acquaintances with African Americans, starting with some of the guys I played high school football with and continuing into my Navy years, where I worked with some of the finest professionals in that line of business who happened to be, uh, negroes. But I don't stay in touch with any of them.

My first real girlfriend was a dark haired lovely of mixed Chinese and Columbian blood. She dumped me over the phone on my 21st birthday. But as best I can tell, I didn’t let that turn me against Asians and Hispanics, because I've dated a number of Asian ladies since then and was briefly married to a woman whose aunt still lives in Spain. I tried to date this really cute looking gal of Iranian descent once, but she wouldn't go out with me. White girl-wise, my first wife was a Dakota Norwegian, and I lived for a year with a woman of Finnish heritage. I kissed a black girl once when I was 23. We'd both been drinking.

In my way back years as a struggling actor in Chicago, I had a major crush on a trio of Polish sisters. Being a theatrical type, I had a lot of contact with homosexuals. Only in retrospect do I realize that was good training for my life as a naval officer, because I worked with a lot of homosexuals there too.

These days, my favorite editor and sometimes writing partner is a practicing Roman Catholic. I like to think I do a pretty good job of not holding that against her. I try not to be too bigoted against Catholic priests, but if I'm going to be in the same room with one, he has to keep his hands out where I can see them.

I despise Christians like Pat Robertson, and self-styled evangelical politicians like young Mister Bush can suck summer sausage in hell for all eternity as far as I'm concerned.

So I guess I'm a total bigot.

Wait, I just remembered. My two best friends are, in fact, minority members. One is a third generation Mexican and the other is half Croix Indian. But they're both U.S. Navy veterans, and are both married to German-Irish girls, one of whom happens to be my sister. So that likely prejudices me in their favor.

Which makes me an even bigger bigot, I guess.

Yeah, I know, plenty of you won't find this funny or insightful. All I ask is that when you comment on the crass and tasteless tone of this piece, please do me the favor of spelling your hyphenated obscenities correctly.

And please don't throw racial or religious hatred into the discussion of America's Middle East policy.

Make jokes, not war.

Or as the Jewish mom who used to live next door to my Catholic mom would say, "make nice."


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thursday Preview: The Fifty First State of Israel?

If we really want to make protection of the state of Israel a key component of our foreign policy, why not move it to a place where we can make it safe and secure part of the continental United States?

According to the CIA World Fact Book, Israel is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. It sits at 31 degrees north latitude, and has a total population of less than 6.5 million. Its climate is "temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern areas." Only 15 percent of its land is arable. And oh yeah, it's surrounded on all sides by enemies committed to its elimination; enemies that couldn't lay a finger on it if it were located in the middle of the mightiest nation that ever existed.

Terrain and climate wise, Israel resembles one of the most unpopulated regions of the United States, an area that centers on the edges of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. If you carve a New Jersay piece of real estate out of that tri-state corner and give it to Israel, it won't make a whole hell of a lot of difference to anybody who already lives there. The Israelis already respect the property ownership and rights of anyone who isn't Jewish.

Israel wouldn't need to make wholesale changes in its present form of government to become an American state. Olmert and his successors would switch from being prime ministers to governors. They could keep their legislative system just the way it is as a state assembly. The Israeli Defense Force could become the Israeli National Guard, and the Mossad could become the competent branch of America's intelligence community.

Who would have a legitimate gripe about a state of the American union that is religiously oriented? Certainly not those booger snacking evangelical Christians who infest red states, and sure as hell not Utah.

Yes, we'd have to finance the cost of moving every man, woman and child in Israel to America, but in both the long and short term, that would cost a hell of a lot less than what we're paying to keep them where they are.

And imagine what would happen if we turned the Israelis from tax burdens into taxpayers. These industrious people have proven themselves eminently capable of turning deserts into garden spots, of transforming desolation into vibrant communities. Could we use that kind of human growth injection into the American scene or what?

As to the religious artifacts and traditions of Jerusalem and other artifacts in present day Israel:

American entrepeneur Robert P. McCulloch bought the London Bridge in 1968 and had it torn down, transported and rebuilt brick by brick in Lake Havisu, Arizona. If Mculloch could pull off a stunt like, it should be no problem at all for the Jews and the American government to transport every molecule of the Wailing Wall and whatever other Holy Moses relic they care to keep and reconstruct it in the United States Commonwealth of Israel.

End Game

With Israel safely nested inside our ocean protected borders, the only vulnerability the Middle East presents to American is our dependence on its oil and the possible threat of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads on American cities. But, by golly, with the Israelis fully vested in the American agenda, I'll bet you dollars to donuts they could come up to solutions to those problems post haste.

Yeah, I know this whole idea of bringing Israel here sounds a bit crazy. But is it one bit crazier than the foreign policy we're pursuing now?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Draft Beer, Not Kids

As it has several times in the past few years, talk of reinstating a military draft is rising to the surface again. Some fear that a draft would be used as a tool by the neoconservatives to support the prolonged war in Iraq and other "optional" armed conflicts. Others--including, perhaps surprisingly, some fairly prominent voices from the political left--think a draft might be a good idea.

I think it's highly unlikely that the Bush administration will try to bring the draft back, regardless of how the November elections turn out, largely for fear that whatever support for the Iraq war still exists would drop out of the bottom. Still, the pros and cons of resuming a national military conscription is worthy of attention in the national debate because adoption or rejection of such a policy could have a major effect on America's role in the Next World Order.

No less of a war hawk than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that, "The last thing we need is a draft." This is the one point on national defense policy--perhaps the only one--on which I agree with Donald Rumsfeld.

For better or worse, armed conflict has become a high tech undertaking. Hopefully, for America at least, the days of fighting wars by putting a rifle in the hands of any kid who can fog a mirror are gone forever. Moreover, not everyone is suited for military service. That doesn't mean folks who don't fit the armed service mold are slackers, sissies, unpatriotic, or any other epithet we may be tempted to label them with. It just means their natural aptitudes lie outside the loose set of talents that make for squared-away G.I. Janes and Josephs. I had fairly significant management and leadership experience in the military, and can state without fear of credible contradiction that supervisory personnel in all branches of the service would far rather work with volunteers than conscripts. Sure, a lot of dysfunctional personalities and attitudes slip through the cracks of the recruiting process, but in the main, you'd rather be around people who asked to wear a uniform than around folks who didn't.

For all the talk about American now being engaged in a "global," "generational" or "world" war, we're really involved in no such thing. The "war on terror" is no more of a war than are the war on drugs or the war on poverty. It's an ongoing problem that will require vigilant law enforcement and diplomatic, economic, and information measures. Our conflict in Iraq is an aberration--i.e., "mistake"--based on the delusional neoconservative notion that military force can achieve any and all U.S. national objectives.

America's Navy and Air Force aren't hurting at present for sufficient manpower or new recruits. Our personnel challenges are limited to our land power services, the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Marine Corps. The only reason we'd need a draft to supplement these branches would be so we could fight more wars like the one we're currently fighting in Iraq. And the most important lesson we've (hopefully) learned from the Iraq War is that we don't want or need to fight any more wars like it. Why should we? Did we spend most of the 20th century establishing ourselves as the leading world power so we could get bogged down in dirty little wars with third rate ones in the 21st?

Oceans Away

Of late, young Mister Bush has been fond of saying, "We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously."

As with most of Bush's scripted rhetoric, both of these assertions are false.

What Abraham Lincoln said in 1838 is as true now as it was then:
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

Not the Chinese nor the Russians nor Iran nor North Korea nor al Qaeda nor anyone else can raise an army or an amphibious assault fleet large enough to cross the Atlantic or Pacific and invade and occupy the United States. No one will ever be able to do that. They won't even try to develop the capability because it is unachievable.

The only military threat the U.S. is vulnerable to is the delivery of WMD, most notably a nuclear warhead, on American soil by means of an intercontinental ballistic missile. But we managed to deter that threat for more than 50 years of Cold War with the Soviets, and we can easily deter the same sort of threat from "rogue" nuclear states like North Korea in much the same manner. On last Sunday's Meet the Press, Senator Joe Biden perfectly articulated the proper diplomatic stance to take toward North Korea or any other nation that threatens to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile.
You do something like that, we will annihilate you.

There's no need for a military draft to back that promise. We'll always have plenty of qualified volunteers to man our missile silos. Compared to being an infantryman, being a nuclear missileer in an air conditioned silo is pretty skate duty.

As to the threat of covert terrorists, international or "home grown," well, America has always been under that cloud too. A military draft won't solve the problem.

Glamour Girls and Universal Conscription

Even if you could make a legitimate argument for the efficacy of a new military draft, you'll never convince me that we can construct a system that will improve on the class inequities of Vietnam era conscription. Rifle toters won't be sons of corporate CEOs. The Bush twins of our age will serve as flight attendants with the Texas Air National Guard, and latter day Dick Cheneys will have "better things to do."

What of the "national service draft" that will require all able Americans between the ages of, say, 18 and 25 to serve in some capacity, military or peaceful, in government service? Riddle me this: what the hell are we going to do with all those kids, and how the hell are we going to pay for it?

What's more, such a requirement would amount to mandatory indentured servitude to the government as a condition of citizenship. How would that square with the admonition in the Declaration of Independence about "inalienable rights?"

So yes, the notion of a draft is well worth discussing, but no, it's a very, very, very bad idea. It won't make America better or safer or stronger. It will just make Americans vassals of the government, which is 180 degrees out from the way things are supposed to be in this country. While serving one's country--by being a responsible and productive citizen--and serving one's government are not necessarily mutually exclusive pursuits, they're two very separate things. The very notion of "national service" itself is a tenuous concept at best.

Just consider Dick Cheney, who's spent his life serving himself in the name of his government and country.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bill Kristol's Balls

Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard wants the U.S. to use the current Israel-Lebanon confrontation as an excuse to attack Iran. Coming from the guy who wanted to use any excuse to invade Iraq, that's hardly surprising.

In case you don't already know it, Kristol's father Irving is considered to be the "godfather" of the American neoconservative movement, and Kristol himself was the founding chairman of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the think tank whose membership has included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, John Bolton, Bill Bennett, Jeb Bush and other luminaries of the political right.

As its paper trail reveals, the PNAC began pushing for removal of Saddam Hussein by military force in early 1998. Between then and the 2003 invasion, PNAC's justification for such action ranged from weapons of mass destruction to ensuring the Middle East oil flow to protecting Israel to establishing a larger military footprint in the Gulf region. Its September 2000 publication Rebuilding America's Defenses baldly confessed that Saddam Hussein was in reality a convenient excuse for its ambition of a U.S. occupied Middle East:
"While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." (Page 14.)

PNAC did not stress terrorism as a supporting argument for its Iraq policy until after 9/11, and even then they stated that Hussein should be removed by force whether any proof surfaced that he was connected to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks or not.*

This very same Bill Kristol and his neo-confederates are now characterizing the Israel-Lebanon confrontation as Iran's Proxy War, and are urging "pursuit of regime change" in Syria and Iran and "countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities."

Proof by Lack of Evidence

The Bush administration justified its invasion of Iraq with then CIA director George Tenet's "slam dunk" proof of Saddam Hussein's active weapons of mass destruction program and ambiguous intelligence claims of links between Hussein andal Qaeda. Both allegations proved false.

In the war dance currently being choreographed for military confrontation with Iran, the usual suspect chicken hawks aren't even making a pretense at having a shred of evidence to support their claims of Iranian actions or intentions.
President Bush and leading administration echo chamberlains like PNACer Charles Krauthammer consistently insist that Iran is actively pursuing technology necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has consistently insisted that it only wants to establish a nuclear energy industry for reasons that are obvious to anyone who can read the writing on the wall about the future of fossil fuel as an engine of industrial development.

Who are we to believe?

As Seymour Hersch's recent piece in The New Yorker revealed, Pentagon war planners can't come up with a coherent target set for a contingency air operation on Iran because they can't find any indication of the existence of nuclear weapons production facilities. Hersch wrote:
A former senior intelligence official told me that people in the Pentagon were asking, “What’s the evidence? We’ve got a million tentacles out there, overt and covert, and these guys”—the Iranians—“have been working on this for eighteen years, and we have nothing? We’re coming up with jack shit.”

Evidence that Iran and its strategic partner Syria are behind Hezbollah's recent kidnapping of Israeli soldiers that sparked the Israel-Lebanon conflict is equally jack-less.

More than ample evidence exists to prove the Iran has sponsored and equipped Hezbollah throughout the history of its existence, and has used the organization as a proxy in its struggle with Israel. But crystal clear evidence exists that America created and supported Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. And there's no question at all that America backed Saddam Hussein in the, Iran-Iraq War, or that the U.S. supplied Hussein with chemical weapons to fight that war, or that the United States Navy actively participated in that conflict on the side of Iraq.

Are we then to conclude that senior officials in the Reagan and Bush I administration like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were responsible for launching Iraq's WMD program, or Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, or of the 9/11 attacks? Is it unreasonable to conclude that the people in charge of the United States government right now are the very ones who created the "axis of evil" and "Islamo-fascism?"


The Sunday political gab fest was positively electric over the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Newt Gingrich thinks we're seeing the beginning of World War III (and here I though we were already engaged in World War IV. Or V. Or VI. I'm losing count.) The blogosphere is swarming with conspiracy theories--Olmert ordered his soldiers to let themselves get kidnapped, Bush secretly promised Olmert the U.S. would let Israel do whatever they want in Lebanon, and somewhere I think I saw mention of the real mastermind behind the whole thing being the man in the moon.

Pundits and politicians on the left and right are pointing fingers at Iran and Syria, but all we really know for sure is that the Middle East appears to be headed for hell in a handbag, and that nobody really knows what the hell's going on or who the hell's really behind it.

And in the middle of this insanity steps good old Bill Kristol saying, "Hey, I know, lets bomb Iran's nuclear reactors."

Yeah, Bill. That will fix everything. Just like your great idea about invading Iraq did.

Young Mister Bush is catching heat from all sides regarding his reaction to the Israel-Lebanon crisis. Some say he's not doing enough to show that America stands behind Israel. Others say he's not doing enough to stay Israel's hand. I say that for once, Bush is doing the right thing by waffling. Not that waffling is a good thing to do, but it's the only real choice he has right now.

He certainly can't come out strongly in favor of Hezbollah. If he speaks out strongly in favor of Israel, he'll further solidify anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world--Arabs, Persians, Sunnis and Shias alike.

And Allah help us all if Bush listens to the likes of Kristol (again) and starts flinging two thousand pound bombs at Iran on the basis of allegations supported by zero intelligence.

As Senator Joe Biden (D Delaware) said on Meet the Press, the Bush administration's Middle East policy has placed America in a very deep hole. The best thing we can do now is to stop digging. We need to change the U.S. political equation in November, but we need to do a lot more than that. We must utterly reject the neoconservative philosophy, and that means turning our backs on Bill Kristol, his PNAC cabal, and their associates in hawkish organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution and the American Enterprise Institute.

Then we'll need to take a fire hose to the sacred cash cow known as America's military industrial complex.


*For a more comprehensive account of the neoconservatives' long march to the war in Iraq, see The PNAC Paper Trail.

Also see Jeff's Next World Order series.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Preemptive Overreacting in the Next World Order

"Democracy can yield the peace we all want."

-- George W. Bush

How much peace does Mister Bush really want? Not a whole hell of a lot, by the look of things.

My ePluribus Media Journal article "Wars and Empires" discusses how, since the early 20th century, America's wars have brought increasingly counter-productive results. World War I, the "war to end all wars," laid the groundwork for World War II. The "good war" led to the decades long Cold War and the "third world" proxy wars that accompanied it. We fought North Korea to a tie more than 50 years ago. Today, we're at a loss as to how to curb its nuclear weapons program. And the Swift Boat controversy in the 2004 presidential election clearly illustrated that the country still suffers trauma from the Vietnam experience.

Our invasion of Iraq has created an insurgency/civil war/Hobbesian nightmare in that country. Despite having troops in countries that surround it, we supposedly face "no greater challenge" than Iran.

The "spread of democracy" throughout the Middle East turned the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah into legitimate political parties, which has now led Israel to launch a full-blown war against Palestine and Lebanon.

Though America's military is unsurpassed in combat capability, it is proving unsuited to achieving our national aims. This unpleasant reality has damaged our ability to conduct foreign diplomacy, and the cost of the military and conduct of armed conflict has become a profound burden on our economy.

Wherefore War?

We can only draw so many lessons from spinning alternative histories. There's a pretty good argument that says we should have stayed out of World War I and let the Europeans slug it out among themselves until none of them could possibly have recovered enough to fight a second world war. Some think our participation in World War II was unavoidable, but that Roosevelt should have listened to Churchill and cut Stalin out of eastern Europe. Some say we had to defend South Korea, but MacArthur blew things when he pushed too far up the Peninsula. Many still make the case that we would have won in Vietnam if we'd only stayed another eight months to a year and blah, blah, blah.

Some critics of the present Iraq War think the decision to invade was a sound one, and everything would have been hunky dory if only the boobs in charge of the war hadn't dropped the ball after the fall of Baghdad. Peter W. Galbraith, author of the book The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, writes ``With regard to Iraq, President Bush and his top advisors have consistently substituted wishful thinking for analysis and hope for strategy."

While I agree in spirit with Galbraiths' sentiments, I vehemently oppose the overall conclusions that he and other war critics draw. The "wishful thinking" wasn't so much the delusion that we would be "greeted as liberators" and that centuries of animosity among Sunnis, Shias and Kurds would melt away like a snowman in the streets of Baghdad. The cognizant dissonance in the neoconservative philosophy was (and still is) that a hegemonic United States could impose secure, America-centric world order at the point of a gun.

Perhaps the most dissonant aspect of the neoconservative vision was its policy of "preemptive deterrence." The phrase itself is a model illustration of semantic internal fallacy. You can't stop something by starting it.

And you can't claim you know what a potential enemy intends through strategic intelligence because, as the Iraq debacle showed, you can't rely on strategic intelligence, and you can't rely on lack of strategic intelligence to act on worst case assumptions (although, as Sy Hersh points out in The New Yorker, that's precisely what contingency military plans for Iran are based on).

If you wait for adversaries to act on you assumptions of their intentions and capabilities, you're not preempting. You're reacting. What's more, if you react in a way that's out of proportion to your adversaries' actions, you're overreacting.

Which brings us to a proper description of the policy the Bush administration has followed since it shoe horned its way into office: preemptive overreacting.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

The Next World Order series.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dog Pile on SCOTUS, Part II

Part I of Dog Pile on SCOTUS discussed Mister Bush's false claims that the Hamdan versus Rumsfeld ruling "accepted" his use of Guantanamo bay as a detention center for "enemy combatants." It did nothing of the sort. The Supreme Court did not address the legitimacy of Guantanamo because that issue was not part of the case.

As Bush was interpreting a SCOTUS decision much in the same manner he interprets legislation in whatever manner favors him, two of the administration's most visible echo chamberlains castigated the court for putting any limitations on presidential powers at all.

One of them, not surprisingly, was Charles Krauthammer, the neoconservative columnist and co-author of the September 20, 2001 Project for the New American Century letter that exhorted Mister Bush to invade Iraq even if that country couldn't be linked to the 9/11 attacks.

According to Krauthammer, "logic went AWOL" in the court when it told Mister Bush his military tribunals were illegal. As is his habit, Krauthammer supported his arguments for special presidential powers by distorting facts and rewriting history.
During the Civil War, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus — trashing the Bill of Rights or exercising necessary emergency executive power, depending on your point of view. But he got the whole troublesome business done by 1865 and the Supreme Court stayed away.

Like most well crafted lies, this statement contains just enough of the truth to fool most of the people most of the time. And like most crafty liars, Krauthammer omits a vital piece information that puts the Civil War habeas controversy in proper context.

In the case of ex parte Merryman, then Chief Justice Roger Taney, riding a circuit bench while the Supreme Court was in recess, lambasted Lincoln for suspending habeas. In no uncertain terms, Taney decreed that clear intent of the Constitution was to give the power to suspend habeas in time of war to Congress and Congress alone. That Lincoln chose to ignore this ruling by no means justify Krauthammer's statement that the "Supreme Court stayed away" from the matter.

Krauthammer also misrepresents Hamdan decision in his customary vituperative style: "The court's wanton overriding of Congress and the president is another in a long string of breathtaking acts of judicial arrogance."

If you take a fire hose to the bellicose language in that sentence, you get something to the effect that the court extended its power to a case that arose under the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made under authority of America's Constitution and laws. Which is precisely what Article III charges the court to do.

Another Dog Piles On

John Yoo, a key architect of the Bush administration's claims of "plenary" (absolute) executive power, described the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision as a "power grab."
A president responds to an unprecedented war with unprecedented measures that test the limits of his constitutional authority. He suffers setbacks from hostile Supreme Court justices, a critical media and a divided Congress, all of which challenge his war powers.

Yoo's rhetoric deserves a phrase-by-phrase deconstruction, because it so typifies the "euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness" of today's Rovewellian political language.

There is nothing genuinely "unprecedented" or "new" about the so-called war on terror. Religious fanaticism, terrorism, vague and shadowy threats, non-state entities, insurgency, asymmetric forces, clashes of culture, and all the rest of it have been integral aspects of armed conflict since Sun Tzu was a staff sergeant. There is no characteristic of our present war that Thucydides didn't write about more than 2,400 years ago in The History of the Peloponnesian War, and none of it was new then either.

For "hostile" justices, a "critical" media, and a "divided" Congress to block or question the legality of trial by unilaterally established military commissions in no way constitutes a "setback" in Mister Bush's conduct of this war. Hamdan and the other Guantanamo detainees are already out of the fight. Arriving at a legally and politically accepted manner of bringing them to trial has no bearing on the continued execution of the war, which to date has been characterized by incompetent execution at the highest levels of the chain of command.

As to challenging Mister Bush's war powers: what war powers? You'll hear plenty of talk about them, but you won't find them delineated anywhere. Article II of the Constitution makes the president commander in chief of the military. It makes no distinction of his powers in that role between wartime and peacetime, and it makes no distinction between declared and undeclared wars.

As for Yoo accusing the Supreme Court of having made a "power grab" in the Hamdan decision--well, coming from the guy who wrote, "In the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the president’s decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable," that's a delectable morsel of pot-and-kettle irony.

Fear Factor

The administration's noise machine has clumped SCOTUS in with the media, Congress, the Clintons, the French, Catholics who voted for John Kerry, and everyone else who might conceivably be viewed as an "enemy" of this imperial presidency. In its ruling that military commissions violate article 3 of the Geneva Convention, the court told Mister Bush the word he hates to hear most: no.

It may be that the Hamdan ruling will inspire a resurgence of spinal development in our other institutions, but don't start counting your chickens just yet.

The consistent theme behind Bush's claims of absolute power has been that he needs complete freedom of action to "protect the country," and anyone who tries to limit presidential power puts Americans at risk. That message has been pounded into the consciousness and conscience of the public, Congress, the media, and now, the Supreme Court.
Anyone who successfully stands up to this presidency runs the risk of being found guilty in the court of public opinion if another 9/11 occurs.

That's a very real fear, and one that our bravest public servants may find difficult to overcome.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Also see Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dog Pile on SCOTUS, Part I

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible... Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness."

-- George Orwell

The Supreme Court is the latest institution to come under the Rove machine's crosshairs as the Bush administration continues its pursuit of unlimited executive powers. It's a multi-pronged assault that contains the standard cast of characters repeating a familiar script, and typifies the operating procedures of the White House and its echo chamberlains.

Young Mister Bush is no longer satisfied with interpreting legislation in whatever manner he chooses. Now he's revising decisions of the Supreme Court.

In a July 7 press conference, referring to the Hamdan versus Rumsfeld ruling, Bush said the court was "…silent on whether or not Guantánamo--whether or not we should have used Guantánamo. In other words, they accepted the use of Guantánamo, the decision I made."

The court accepted nothing of the sort. They were silent on the Guantanamo question because, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times aptly notes:
The question of whether Mr. Bush had properly used Guantánamo Bay to house detainees was not at issue in the case. At issue was whether the president could unilaterally establish military commissions with rights different from those allowed at a court-martial to try detainees for war crimes.

The existence and use of Guantanamo as a detention center was not at issue because Hamadan's attorneys did not address it in their petition. I've studied quite a bit of case law over the past year in the course of researching presidential powers. Among the most striking things I've noticed is that lawyers don't generally approach the Supreme Court Justices with scattergun arguments and try to baffle them with bunkum. They construct focused arguments on behalf of their clients. Hamdan's legal team limited its plea to points of constitutional law that they successfully argued protect Hamdan from trial by military commissions established by Mister Bush.

The Supreme Court is laudably scrupulous about not judging on matters that aren't pressed by the plaintiff. Arguably, for them to do so would indeed constitute "legislating from the bench."

For Mister Bush to claim that the court's silence on the legality of the existence and use of the Guantanamo constituted a tacit approval is a complete fabrication.

But, as we've seen, fabrication is part and parcel of this administration's political strategy.

Next: more dogs join the pile...


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Coming Attraction: Dog Pile on SCOTUS

Tomorrow morning Pen and Sword will feature an analysis of the reaction by the Bush administration and its echo chamberlains to the Supreme Court ruling on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. The regular cast is making the familiar round of attacks from the tired old script on the usual scapegoats.

Young Mister Bush puts words in the Supreme Court's mouth, Charles Krauthammer revises history, and John Yoo rewrites the constitution.

At the end of the day, everybody's at fault for the administration's failures except Young Mister Bush himself.

Gee. The guy's 60 now. You'd think he's finally old enough to be held responsible for his own actions.

Also look for "Dog Pile on SCOTUS" at ePluribus Media and elsewhere in the information traffic jam.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Bad in Yesterday's Column

Yesterday's commentary Another Week Under Our Belts contained "I just heard on CNN that Japan has dropped its demands for sanctions on North Korea."

Well, brother, I sure must have heard that wrong. Checking for further information on his development, I could only find reports that the exact opposite is the case. This CNN report posted today is the most recent update on the situation I've found so far.
Japan introduced a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on Friday that would bar missile-related financial and technology transactions with North Korea, but China and Russia, which have veto power, opposed any punitive measures.

So, as I mentioned, China and Russia are still playing flies in the oatmeal, but Japan still appears to be insisting on sanctions.

My bad for using a false "fact" to make a point about developments in the Next World Order.

Nonetheless, we're still witnessing a development in global events that conforms to the Next World Order model. A major power (China) and a balance power (Russia) are aligning against another confederation of major and balance powers (U.S. and Japan) over the contentious actions of a wild card (North Korea).

The Iran issue features a similar Next World Order set of alliances: the U.S. and the European Union squaring off over sanctions with China and Russia.

I believe we can expect to see a lot more of these kinds of alliances over single-issue foreign policy matters. And I pray that these issues will be consistently resolved through mutual benefit solutions arrived at through diplomatic measures rather than application of armed force.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Another Week Under Our Belts

The New York Times reports that lowering of recruiting standards has allowed hate groups to infiltrate the military.
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization…

… "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the [Southern Poverty Law Center] quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, "That's a problem."

It's also one more way in which getting stuck in a long, unnecessary war has weakened our professional military's capabilities and effectiveness. We have neo-Nazis running loose in the land of the Hajis? There's a "hearts and minds" strategy for you.

Over at Free Republic last month, Dr. Jack Wheeler gave his suggestions to Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki for a real peace plan. Hang Saddam. Shoot al Sadr. More stuff like that.

Discussion of the 24-point plan Malaki has actually proposed fell off the scope last week. The most contentious aspect of it, in many minds, is its offer of amnesty to insurgents whose only "crime" has been to fight occupying U.S. and coalition forces. I don't think he has any choice but to offer amnesty. If the Bush administration manages to block the offer, they'll take away any motivation the insurgents might have to stop fighting U.S. and coalition forces. In fact, it will put them in a position where they can't ever stop fighting.

The big media are breaking a story about a plot to bomb New York's Holland Tunnel. It's interesting how all these terrorist plots are just now being discovered. I expect to see more of them coming to light between now and November.

China and Russia are aligning against the U.S. positions on Iran and North Korea, further evidence that the Next World Order has already arrived. I just heard on CNN that Japan has dropped its demands for sanctions on North Korea. Will American be able to maintain a status as "first among nations" in the post-neoconservative era?

We had an interesting discussion this week at Pen and Sword over whether anything "good" has actually come from our war in Iraq. Can anything be termed "good" if it doesn’t justify the costs and consequences of achieving it? Is it good that Saddam Hussein is out of power considering the chaos ousting him has created in Iraq? If you lose your right leg, should you be happy that you've dropped 35 pounds?

Over at ePluribus Robert Fuller, author of All Rise discusses his vision of a Dignitarian Society.
The precise and universal cause of indignity is the abuse of power. Make a list of the most distressing issues of recent years: corporate corruption, the lobbying scandals, the Katrina catastrophe, sexual abuse by clergy, Abu Ghraib, domestic spying, etc. Every one of them can be traced to an abuse of power by individuals of rank. Often the abuses had the blessing of people of even higher rank.

Toward the end of my naval career, the expression "knowledge is power" became quite popular. Looking back, it occurs to me that this saying supports the notion that the ultimate goal of gaining knowledge is to obtain power.

Will we ever see a time when humanity values wisdom over power?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Eating Crow in the Next World Order

In case you hadn't noticed, the neoconservative approach to foreign policy has been an unmitigated failure.

The media are still abuzz with stories of the North Korean missile tests. David E. Sanger of the New York Times notes that "after a barrage of missile launchings by North Korea, President Bush and his national security advisers found themselves on Wednesday facing what one close aide described as an array of 'familiar bad choices.'"

"Familiar bad choices" will be a suiting epithet on the Bush administration's tombstone. Sanger notes that top advisers are less concerned over what to do about North Korea's new missile "than with the bigger question of whether the president is prepared to leave office in 2009 without constraining an unpredictable dictator who boasts about having a nuclear arsenal."

Mister Bush will leave office--in 2009 or whenever--with more problems than any successor, Democrat or Republican, will be able to solve easily. The Brave Neoconservative World has already turned into the Next World Order, a world order that's a far cry from the delusional dream of U.S. global domination through military force.

Our experiments with regime change at the point of a gun in Afghanistan and Iraq have been colossal train wrecks. Pentagon planners can't come up with a coherent master air attack plan for Iran because they can't find anything suitable to bomb, or any proof that Iran isn't telling the truth when it says it doesn't have a nuclear weapons program and has no intention of developing one. And the best solution to the North Korean missile testing seems to be to encourage them to test fire missiles until they don't have any missiles left.

Without question, the critical vulnerability in the neoconservatives' overall foreign policy was its myopic fascination with Iraq. They were bound and determined to invade that country come hell or high water, whether Saddam Hussein was still in power or not. This unfortunate misstep, and the incompetent manner in which it was executed, has left America profoundly weaker militarily, economically, and diplomatically. Our executive branch has a well earned global reputation for secrecy and deception, and our news media have been so profoundly corrupted that there's no taking any information coming from any U.S. source at face value. That's a sorry state of affairs for the nation that was the home of Honest Abe and the president named George who could not tell a lie.

Reversing America's vector to oblivion will take swallowing some very big and very bitter pills. One will be that the cornerstone of America's power--its military might--can no longer be relied upon to achieve the country's policy aims. The more the balance of armed force has tilted in our favor, and the more we have applied armed force to foreign policy, the more unfavorable consequences we have managed to create. This is not to suggest we disarm. Our physical security, and arguably that of the entire world, will continue to require a robust capability to respond swiftly and decisively to contingencies that only armed force can counter.

But we'll have to disavow, even if only tacitly, that the preemptive deterrence doctrine is a bust. War hawks will continue to insist that any posture other than willingness to fight any where, any time shows weakness, but applying terms like "appeasement" and "surrender" to the actions of a nation that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined is ludicrous. We can spend a heck of a lot less on armed force than we are now and still whip anyone who wants to take us on hands down.

We need to get out of Iraq, and barring a miracle, there's no good way to do that. Whatever moral obligation we have to help that country get on its feet is just about paid up. Right now in Ramadi American troops are fighting Iraqi insurgents with an Iraqi unit that's undermanned because up to 500 of its soldiers didn't want to fight other Iraqis. If Iraqi soldiers don't want to fight for themselves, we have no ethical requirements to do it for them.

We might want to redeploy forces to Afghanistan to clean up the mess we allowed to resurge there. That would be admitting we made a mistake, though, and we might wind up just creating another Iraq and draining our force even further. We may have to admit that Afghanistan is an insoluble problem and pull out of there too.

We'll have to concede that Iran has right to develop its own uranium enrichment capabilities and hope we can find a way to ensure they don't go in the nuclear weapons direction. Unfortunately, there may be no sure-fire way to ensure Iran doesn't produce nukes behind our backs. If that's the case, we'll have to fall back on the same deterrence measure we applied to the Soviets during the Cold War and the one we're using with the North Koreans now: our own nuclear arsenal.

Like many, I'd like to see a complete eradication of nuclear weapons, but I don't see anything like that in the cards for decades. Another one of those bitter pills we'll have to swallow is that non-proliferation is a blown policy. The cats are out of the corral, and all the cowboys in the world won't be enough to round them back up. We'll just have to put out a bowl of milk and wait for them to come around when they're good and ready to.

As I wrote last September, empires come and empires go. Some land softly, some wind up as a footnote of another empire's history book. In order for America to position itself as a "first among nations" in the next world order, we're going to have to taste a little crow.

But hey, I hear that with the right seasonings, crow can be downright palatable.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Recommended Reading

I don't normally publish "go read that" pieces, but two articles are floating around the infosphere that everyone ought to be aware of.

First is a piece by Judy Bachrach in Vanity Fair. "Washington Babylon" chronicles the shenanigans of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Vietnam era Navy fighter ace who abused his position on the House defense appropriations committee to make himself rich and subsequently went to prison for it.

Second is a story in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer. Mayer has been tracking the efforts of all the President's lawyers to subvert the constitution for quite some time. This time, she goes into detail about the role of Dick Cheney aide David Addington in subverting division of power in a so-called republic unseen since the days of Julius Caesar.

Pavlov's Dogs of War, Continued

In the Next World Order I discuss how use of armed force is losing its effectiveness as a tool of national power, more often than not doing more harm than good. With each passing day, we see further evidence of this phenomenon.

Last week I described the situation in Iraq as a goat rope tied in Gordian knots wrapped around a Mobius strip. That may have been a colossal case of understatement.

Prime Minister Nouri al Malaki has taken charge of the Iraq peace process. Part of his 24-point plan offers a halt of offensive operations against insurgent groups that want to play along and amnesty to insurgents whose only offense has been to fight against U.S. occupying forces.

Right now, U.S. troops are conducting an offensive operation against Sunni insurgents in the Iraq city of Ramadi. Iraqi forces are participating in the operation as well. Sort of. The Iraqi battalion is deployed at less than a third of its total strength because its commander left nearly 500 members of the unit back in Mosul. Why? Because those soldier don't want to fight other Iraqis for fear of creating tribal vendettas.

We've arrived at a stage where our troops are fighting Iraqis because Iraqis don't want to fight among themselves, but they're only fighting the Iraqis that Malaki will let them fight. If the Iraqis whom American troops are fighting right now sign on for Malaki's deal, our troops have to stop fighting them, and those very same Iraqis our troops are fighting right now will theoretically be eligible for Malaki's amnesty deal because they're fighting American troops.

I don't point this out as a criticism of Malaki. As of now, I think he's the most brilliant statesman on the planet, and his 24-point proposal is the only plan on the table that has a chance of resolving the Iraq fiasco. I also think it’s a smart idea to leave certain Iraqi troops out of a fight to avoid creating more internal violence. But for all practical purposes, our military is functioning as Malaki's private mercenary force.

How did the mightiest nation in human history let itself get boxed into a corner like that?


I noted back in March of this year that the Bush administration's on Iran policy is wholly irrational for reasons that Seymour Hersch recently outlined in The New Yorker.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insists that America will only undertake direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program if it ceases all efforts at developing its own uranium enrichment program. Iran continues to insist that it will not give up its enrichment program, which is a right guaranteed to it by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows signatories to pursue their own nuclear energy producing capabilities.

Ms. Rice and the rest of the Bush inner circle continue to insist that Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons. Iran continues to insist that it has no intention of doing so.

And as Hersch points out, high rollers at the Pentagon insist that they have no evidence that Iran isn't telling the truth.
A former senior intelligence official told me that people in the Pentagon were asking, “What’s the evidence? We’ve got a million tentacles out there, overt and covert, and these guys”—the Iranians—“have been working on this for eighteen years, and we have nothing? We’re coming up with jack shit.”

Air Force planners aren't able to come up with a coherent bombing operation for Iran because they can't find anything related to nuclear weapons to bomb. They could, of course, just bomb something on general principle, but that might bring some sort of retaliation on U.S. troops in Iraq, and as we discussed, U.S. troops in Iraq already have full dance cards.

Then again, Iran might send troops into Afghanistan, which has gone from being a total success to a total train wreck. We can't put enough troops in Afghanistan to repel an all out invasion by Iran because most of our troops are you know where.

But Pentagon planners may have forgotten about Iran for the time being when North Korea celebrated America's Independence Day by popping off 7 missiles. Mister Bush told them not to do that. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything.

The Bush administration's box score shows nothing but errors. They took Afghanistan away from the Taliban and gave it back to them. Then they invaded a country to seize its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. They're planning to bomb the nuclear weapons of a country that doesn't have any and says it has no interest in acquiring them. They've completely ignored a country that admits to having nuclear weapons and has demonstrated some ability to deliver them.

What will the Bush crowd do about it the missile tests? Talk is floating around that all they can do is try to isolate North Korea diplomatically. I wonder how they'd pull that off. North Korea's already as isolated as a country can get.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.